Islands Speaking the Climate Change Language

  • Pantelina EmmanouilidouEmail author
Reference work entry


“My country will be underwater soon – unless we work together” (Anote Tong 2015). The quote by Anote Tong, president of Kiribati islands, encapsulates the message sent by a loose alliance of island states to the international community, to urge the need for adopting binding measures that tackle climate change. The singular eventuality of an island disappearing under the rising seas has impregnated climate change language and terminology, becoming a powerful symbol for the cause of battling anthropogenic climate change, much like the image of a lonely polar bear sitting atop a tiny floating piece of ice. In this chapter, we examine how this narrative is employed by the representatives of these island countries to successfully influence climate negotiations.

The appeal of this apocalyptic narrative in policy at the international level highlights the often paradoxical nature of the politics of climate change. On one hand, only a handful of islands may actually be threatened by disappearance, but the possibility is used as a lobbying tool for a much larger coalition of island states across the world. On the other hand, all islands, the majority of which are not states, do in fact face common challenges with respect to climate change, which are being neglected, whereas this narrative oversimplifies and caricatures the challenges facing islands to a single concern. This presents a missed opportunity to create a true common language for islands to speak to the world, which would integrate an identity forged by their shared concerns.


Climate change Disappearing islands SIDS International negotiations UNFCCC 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OMIJ/CRIDEAU, CIDCEUniversity of LimogesLimogesFrance

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